Criminal Aviation Case and others raises some serious questions

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Former FAA Aviation Safety Inspector and Owners of Miami Aviation Repair Company Charged in Bribery Scheme

 

USA v. Manuel R. Fernandez, Patricia Suarez, a/k/a “Patricia Bailly,” a/k/a “Patricia Del Castillo;” and Rolando Suarez[1]

US Attorney’s Office Miami, FL

Part 145 owners bribe (alleged) ASI

Inspector gave (alleged) manuals, data, heads up on inspections and info on competitors 

There are many, many dockets in the US District Courts with a heading similar to the above; however, it is unusual for one of the named defendants, Mr. Fernandez is (was?) an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector with the FAA South Florida Flight Standards District Office (“FSDO”).

Mr. Suarez has pled guilty already. At this point in the process it is inappropriate to assume that the other two individuals will be convicted. What is recited below are the as-of-yet unproven allegations as to Ms. Suarez and Mr. Fernandez:

  • “The Suarez’s, through their company, paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Fernandez, an FAA Aviation Inspector, for the sake of minimizing the cost of doing business, gaining inside information on its competitors, and maximizing profits. This indictment represents our joint efforts to ensure that businesses compete on a level playing field, without improper outside influences or the payment or receipt of bribes.”

{source: https://www.avcomtechnik-avionics.com/ as of 11/05/2017}

  • “According to the indictment, from 2010 through June 28, 2013… Patricia Suarez and Rolando Suarez were the co-owners, officers, and directors of AVCOM, a Miami aviation repair company, which was subject to the jurisdiction and official responsibility of the FAA South FSDO.
  • “Patricia Suarez and Rolando Suarez corruptly provided thousands of dollars in cash, income, credit cards, vacation cruises, airline tickets, and other things of value to Fernandez, in exchange for Fernandez violating his lawful and official duties as an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector. In violation of his lawful and official duties, Fernandez provided AVCOM with improperly obtained aviation repair manuals, which saved AVCOM vast sums of money.”
  • “Fernandez assisted AVCOM in altering and erasing language, warnings, and advisories from the manuals that indicated confidential, proprietary, copyrighted, and trade secret material. Fernandez also provided AVCOM with notice and warnings as to FAA inspections and investigations regarding AVCOM and its competitors, disclosed to AVCOM sensitive and confidential information regarding AVCOM’s competitors, and concealed and failed to report AVCOM legal, regulatory, and policy violations to the FAA.
  • “If convicted, Patricia Suarez faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years’ imprisonment for the conspiracy count and fifteen years’ imprisonment each for the bribery counts, as well as a fine up to $250,000 or triple the bribery proceeds.”
  • Rolando Suarez, 56, of Coral Gables, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 201(b)(1)(C). Rolando Suarez was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment and a $20,000 fine. Rolando Suarez also agreed to pay approximately $711,940 in joint and several restitutions in relation to the bribery scheme.”
  • “If convicted, Fernandez faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years’ imprisonment for the conspiracy count, fifteen years’ imprisonment each for the bribery counts, five years’ imprisonment for the false statements count, twenty years’ imprisonment for each wire fraud count, and a two-year consecutive mandatory minimum sentence for the aggravated identity theft counts, as well as a fine up to $250,000 or triple the bribery proceeds.”
  • A VERY CLEAR MESSAGE “When those entrusted with aviation system safety put self-interest and personal enrichment ahead of their obligation, they breach the public’s trust,” said Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “We encourage anyone who may have information about corruption to come forward and report it. This information is vital to our work. The South Florida community can be assured that public corruption will remain a top priority for the FBI.”
typical federal penitentary

typical federal penitentiary

This is tragic. If Mr. Fernandez, indeed, violated his trust, he has not only destroyed his reputation, his conduct will allow cynics to cast aspersions on others who perform this function.

It raises serious questions.

  1. For three years, this alleged corrupt action occurred in the South Florida FSDO. It is a geographical area with a history

of problems. That management was unable to prevent this problem, particularly with all of the data available, is disappointing.

  1. What is even more curious is that after Mr. Suarez has pled guilty, AVCOM still displays its FAA Part 145 certificate. A principal convicted of a felony should be enough to suspend its ticket.

 

This matter lies well beyond the bounds of the FAA’s new Compliance Policy. It would seem appropriate to suspend, at least, this FAA Part 145 certificate.

[1] Already pled guilty.


 

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1 Comment on "Criminal Aviation Case and others raises some serious questions"

  1. Great story Sandy!

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